Unconscious Competence


This gearshift knob shows it's hard to blame a boy for following directions. Especially if  there is difficulty in communication that is yet unseen at the time.
It’s hard to blame a boy for following directions. Especially if there is difficulty in communication that is yet unseen at the time.
This gearshift knob shows it's hard to blame a boy for following directions. Especially if there is difficulty in communication that is yet unseen at the time.
It’s hard to blame a boy for following directions. Especially if there is difficulty in communication that is yet unseen at the time.

Unconscious Competence
As we go through our life experiences, there are many things we do for the first time, that we are not very good at doing. Do you remember the first time you drove a stick shift car or truck? You thought, “hands at 10 & 2. Adjust mirrors. Pump test brake petal. You clumsily practiced coordinating right and left leg with clutch brake and accelerator petals. Don’t drop it. Don’t drop it. Don’t choke down. Don’t choke down. The 4 in the floor never went into first without a grinding. I was just about turning 15 when my Dad told me to get in the truck, and pull it up a few feet. I had no idea of what I was doing, though I had watched him a hundred times, I had never been behind that steering wheel except to clean & vacuum. SO, I sat behind the seat, pushed in the clutch, turned on the motor, and asked Daddy where to move the gear shift stick. (I was taking drivers ed in high school, in a student car, automatic, with a gently quiet, patient instructor, who retained front passenger over-ride controls.)

Dad had a wonderful way of not fully understanding that I had never driven anything like this before. He yelled for me to look at that knob on the shifter and put the thing in 1. I did. I was still holding down the clutch petal. Daddy said to give it some gas & let off the clutch. I revved the gas petal and dropped the clutch. The truck was geared quite low, and if it had not been for that tree I hit with the tailgate, I would have run all over my Dad. He ran up front, as the truck choked down, hitting that tree, and the tailgate had a nice smiley bent in place now. “What the H—!” “I put it in 1”. He leaned over, all excited, to prove me stupid. Looking at the gearshift knob, it was upside down. 1st was where reverse was supposed to be and reverse was where first was supposed to be. This was the first time I ever saw my Daddy do his “Indian Dance”. (He threw his head up & down, swinging that head side to side at the same time, was stomping from a knee high position, hard onto the ground below, and turning in a small circle, over and over again. Arms were flailing all over the place.) It is rather funny to imagine now, but it was no laughing matter at the time!

This is an excellent example of being unconsciously incompetent. You do not even know what you do not know.

As we progress, we find conscious incompetence. In other words, we know what we do not know. It is like kissing a girl for the first time, as an adolescent. You know lips are supposed to pucker up and touch something, a cheek, or maybe other lips. You do not know how hard to press, how to gently approach the “kissee”. You do not know whether you will look like some fish coming at her, or if you will be “cool”. You just don’t know. And there is a scared factor along with the excitement of this might be “it”. Practice makes perfect. But how do we get the practice without looking stupid. This is the point where most people will quit. Humans are a bunch of quitters. It is a good thing we do so much as babies, toddlers, children and when younger. How many of you, if you had to learn to walk all over again, would just give up after a few dozen falls? A toddler just wants to go somewhere different, faster, bored with crawling all the time. The “why” might be to pullup and be able to be face to face with Mom or Dad. Adults find a place of complacency. We get happy with crawling around and when we fall as we try to get into a higher gear, we quit. WE don’t call it quit. We just get happy again settling for less than we could become.

If we try, try, try again, we will learn to get better. Our neurotransmitters will help nerves to respond with muscles and bones, coordinating with senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste, so that we can come to a place where we are consciously competent. Your teenage boys and girls find this life-state in high school athletics. Practice is making a difference. They are beginning to excel, but they are still having to think about how to swing that bat, how to get under that ball, how to run and dribble while making a sharp turn, kicking between the goal posts. They have found motivation that moves them from “geek” to “geek Squad”.

When we have, as one group of psychologists have stated, practiced something 10,000 times, we reach a point where our unconscious takes over many of the functions of our operations. We become excellent because the many things that are needed to “make a move” become as one. We drive a stick shift with ease. Our unconscious groups several actions as if it is one. A professional batter swings at the right time, in the right way, to put it in the outfield or infield as he wishes, without having to concentrate on every possible aspect of the pitch. His unconscious takes over. When a skilled surgeon picks up that scalpel, there is a “know how” to how deeply to press that first incision. We know just when to glance at instrument panels that are critical to the life of our patient. Heart rates, breathing, how much anesthesia is enough, what tool to grab next without looking at the tray. Or we know by the feel placed in our hand whether the right clamp has been handed to you

Should we strive to become unconsciously competent in everything that we do? No. But we should strive to grow toward this in the things that are significant in out life. There is not time to develop every skill set of every human in a lifetime. Use the expertise of others. If your daughter were in need of surgery, would you grab the Internet and search for how to use a scalpel, how anesthesia is applied, knots, staples and sutures types, needs and use? Or would you throw her in the truck & head for the hospital?

Competence is in knowing where you excel and where you need help. Even those who excel will continue to educate, re-educate and research their fields with many hours in trade journals, many hours of practice, many hours of reviewing best procedures and coordinate their expertise with other experts, just like the surgeon will use services of an anesthesiologist, an operating room nurse, and sometimes another surgeon for your delicate procedure.

We, because of our society, understand the metaphor of a need for a surgeon, and even learning to drive a stick.  You may say, “But these save lives”.  “I’ll never have to do any surgery”. “But I’ll never drive anything but an automatic”. … Truth is, there are probably many areas of life where you can use the services of a life coach.

DO you ever wish you had what it took to go forward with a dream? You can. Do you wish you had a personal coach, who understood you, with which to bounce ideas, problems, goals, and how to best accomplish all of them? You can. Do you wish your business could hire a consultation partner who would do due diligence to understand your operation, your culture, your needs, to assist you to, to enable you to become the best leadership, best sales, best marketing, best service, best operations team? You can. Others do! Give yourself the competitive advantage your competition already has. Or, grow so far ahead of their capabilities that you conquer a market.

Remember that time and money need not be excuses. Lack of resources need not be an excuse. Enable your best. If you have courage enough to try, try, try, you will succeed.

ChuckyT 864-341-4775 Cell


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